A Poem for Black History Month

This month as I work with students in schools across the upstate, I am helping them to write their own poetry as well as sharing this tribute poem about the inspirational Dr. Mae Jemison.

I wrote this poem in celebration of the Endeavor Shuttle mission of Mae Jemison, the first woman of color in space.  I admire Mae Jemison especially because she is a woman who started life in a small town, but she had a big impact on the world.

I think anyone who is from a small town can relate to feelings of not feeling like you can do or accomplish certain things because of your background. But Dr. Jemsion shows us that small town folks can have a big impact on culture and history.

This poem is written from the point of view of Mae Jemison, and it merges the factual details of her life with my own poetic imagination. This poem is the first in a series of poems about famous Americans aimed at middle grades students.

Mae Jemison Counts Down Aboard the 1992 Endeavor Shuttle

My blood pumps itself to a distant planet.
My brain is a supernova. My skin is a million stars.
The orange straps across my suit are bright as a fire.
I’m thinking of Grandmother, the swish, swish, swish

of her broom on that Alabama porch, the hot grits
bubbling on the stove, the smell of biscuits and bacon.
On an autumn evening, we’d slowly launch ourselves
in the swing, our feet rising across the pumpkin moon.

The year of my birth, 1956, Alabama still called segregation
separate but equal. My school teacher mama wanted more.
Her and daddy moved us to blue Chicago
to spirit, to hope, to zeal, to inspiration.

Grandmother’s tiny Alabama dreams never imagined 127 orbits
of the Earth.  Mission control is counting slowly down
and this Endeavor will shoot me into history
like a blazing star. What new horizons will I find

in a thousands years of blackness. The earth
and all its heavy history fall. I float, an impossible
dream, a black woman in a white NASA Suit,
an Alabama child with the whole world in her hands.

#blackhistorymonth #ya #youngadult #middlegrades #teaching #maejemsion #poem #poetry

I recently performed this poem for the students, teachers, and parents at the Poetry Out Loud Regional Competition in Spartanburg, SC at Spartanburg Community College. Sponsored by Hub City.

*Mae Jemison was not interviewed in regards to this poem, so the details of what she may have been thinking about while she waited to launch into space are wholly from my imagination.